So, how do you know if you or a loved one are actually suffering from a concussion after a blow to the head? The CDC says that the symptoms of a concussion usually fall into four categories: mental, physical, emotional/mood and sleep. The most common mental symptoms are difficulty thinking clearly, remembering, concentrating and feeling slowed down. Physically the basic signs are headache, dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, difficulty balancing and lethargy. Emotionally speaking you can spot a concussion if someone is irritable, sad, overly emotional or excessively nervous. The injury is harder to notice in sleep patterns but can display itself as, excessive sleep, inability to fall asleep or not sleeping as much as normal. Now, obviously, when it comes to anything involving the brain it’s better to err on the side of caution and just go to the ER or the doctor if you suspect you have any of these symptoms.
However, these are the milder symptoms and concussions can be very serious business. In some cases concussions can result in dangerous blood clots that press against the brain and can prove fatal if not addressed. The big red flags for this are a continually worsening headache, physical weakness, numbness, loss of coordination, repeated vomiting or nausea and slurred speech. If you’re looking after an infant or toddler be aware of all of the same above signs but also look out for a refusal to nurse or eat.
If you’re caring for someone who has recently experienced a head injury, you should look out for the following: convulsions, seizures, one pupil being larger than the other, trouble recognizing familiar people or locations, loss of conscious or generally unusual behavior. It’s important to remember that you can’t be too careful when it comes to a concussion. Especially if the person in question has already had a concussion because they’re then more susceptible to experiencing another one.
What is a Concussion?
In short, a concussion is an MBTi or a mildly traumatic brain injury. In more detail, a concussion occurs when a head injury carries enough force to bang the brain against the inside of the skull. The brain is usually bruised in a concussion level impact but the damage can be much more severe. It’s important to remember as well that the brain is a collection of sections and that they can move at different speeds depending on the force and angle of the impact. This phenomenon can cause tearing of the nervous tissue between certain parts of the brain that impair their ability to communicate and function in sync.
Concussions also disturb the balance of both chemicals and ions in the brain. Some parts of the brain are able to recover from such an injury while others will be permanently damaged. Concussions also cause what are called secondary injuries. These are the harmful effects of processes triggered within the brain by the injury. These effects include inflammation, the production of harmful compounds and free-radicals and the impaired transport of important molecules and ions. Blood flow to the brain is also impaired as the body attempts to mitigate swelling. The subpar molecular and ionic transportation coupled with the presence of free-radicals and a reduced presence of oxygen from the minimized presence of oxygen all compound to slow the brain’s ability to heal itself.
The brain can be impacted in a variety of ways by a concussion. If the memory is damaged, then that lets us know that the patient’s limbic system has been damaged. The limbic system is deep inside the brain and contains the hippocampus, the amygdala, the cingulate gyrus, the thalamus, the hypothalamus, the epithalamus, the mammillary body and other organs. The amygdala is also the primary controller of emotional response so if a patient is experiencing erratic or unusual emotions then that’s also a sign of a damaged limbic system. When the patient is experiencing diminished balance and/or reduced coordination this indicates a damaged cerebellum. The cerebellum is small and is located at the back of the brain but it governs balance, muscle movements and coordination.
Living with a concussion or two isn’t too big of a deal unless they were very severe. The body can typically recover from one of these traumas in about six weeks if the damage done isn’t permanent. As long as the patient can rest and take it quasi-easy for a few weeks the human body is an incredible machine and can bounce back from even the most severe injuries. However, those closest to the patient should always keep an eye out to see if there are subtle and lasting differences as those can be signs of something more severe.
Lately the news has spoken a lot about CTE or chronic traumatic encephalopathy. From Aaron Hernandez’s autopsy and the NFL’s class-action concussion suit to NHL players CTE has been a hot topic. CTE is the result of multiple severe concussions or of many minor ones. The impacts cause a protein called Tau to build up in the brain which leads to nerve cells in the brain dying. The most common symptoms are aggression, depression, impulse control and paranoia.
The Clinton Portis story is exemplary of the way that CTE can simply ruin an athlete’s life. Thankfully, due to the news many parents are re-considering allowing their children to participate in youth football for the first time.
What is CBD?
CBD (cannabidiol) is a cannabinoid found within the cannabis plant. There are over a hundred known cannabinoids within the plant with more to be potentially discovered in the future. CBD is known to help people with many different ailments both major and minor such as cancer, pain, diet, sleep, ADHD and epilepsy to name a few. Although there is a lot of anecdotal evidence calling CBD the miracle drug, it has also been used in combination with other modern treatments to help subdue nasty side effects. An example of this would be to use CBD to help treat the side effects of chemotherapy for cancer.
When CBD is considered in relation to concussions, or in this case the brain as a whole, we must understand a number of aspects about the brain first. As a metaphor the human brain is like a huge complex network with many different pathways that send and receive signals around the body. However, these pathways require access via keys and locks. The keys within the brain are called neurotransmitters and the locks are called receptors. Examples of these receptors are serotonin, dopamine and opioid to name but a few. Once these keys and locks work together they open the pathways of the brain to the body and as a result the body functions as it should. Cannabidiol is like a master key as it can communicate with multiple receptors i.e. fit and unlock any lock. Therefore CBD is very useful in helping brain activity operate at its normal level (or so it is theorized) by being introduced to the brain to help neurotransmitters communicate with various receptors.
The dopamine receptors help with a variety things in the brain such as the regulating the cardiovascular system, producing more receptors and control of motor functions etc. When these receptors are lacking or damaged for any reason it can have serious consequences. It can result in the development of ADHD developing, Parkinson’s Disease, memory loss as well as other serious disorders. Adding CBD to the body could help the brain continue to do its job by allowing CBD to subsidize the responsibilities of the dopamine.
The serotonin receptors have a huge responsibility within the brain as it controls epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine and acetylcholine. Adrenaline is important for humans when dealing with intease situations or pain to allow the body to survive and defend itself. Norepinephrine allows the body to calm itself when it needs regulation. Acetylcholine influences memory, motivation, attention and arousal. As you can tell from the serious responsibilities these receptors have, CBD could provide huge support in helping these receptors continue to communicate successfully.
Before CBD was available opioids where and still are widely used to help with brain related issues such as concussions. As you can suspect these drugs primarily operate with the opioid receptors. However, although this option of medication is widely successful it does has a number of draw backs such as addiction, and other side effects such as liver and kidney damage.
Obviously, a compound that can have these assorted healing properties is the perfect treatment for a condition like a concussion which comes with a widely varied set of problems and symptoms. CBD isn’t a big enough part of the current concussion conversation but that will change in the coming years as the green wave of legalization sweeps across the country and cannabis products become more readily available.
For more info on the healing power of CBD and how it helps with head injury, read on at Could CBD Oil Help with Concussions?
How to Treat a Concussion
The main thing for treating a concussion is simply rest. Not just physical rest but mental rest as well. Stay away from strenuous mental activities and get plenty of rest as that’s when most of the body’s regeneration occurs. Nerve cells are notoriously slow to regenerate so it’s important to be patient. Unfortunately, the treatment is just as vague as the diagnosis currently. The variables involved in a full recovery are very much case by case. Each concussion can be entirely different in nature depending on the force of the impact, the angle of the impact, the occurrence of a second impact immediately after if the patient drops to the ground and which section of the brain is affected.
CBD can be a powerful tool for healing these types of injuries because the molecules can mirror many molecules and have been shown to promote expedited regeneration in nerve cells or neurogenesis. This is particularly impactful for those who have suffered repeated concussions as that usually leads to CTE which is essentially the death of the nerve cells in the brain. The compound has also been shown to have neuroprotective capabilities. So, for anyone involved in any kind of contact sports taking CBD would be a healthy preventative measure as well as an important component of a recovery regimen.
While the trials involving CBD’s myriad benefits for the nervous system are still small the science behind them is solid. Currently it’s classified as a Schedule 1 narcotic which means it has “no medical benefit.” This is absolutely crazy talk as the benefits are clear but the evidence is largely anecdotal to this point. Hopefully, in the coming years clinical trials will be performed at full scale to once and for all prove the medical power of CBD as a whole.